Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren spoke on issues in the Middle East at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and was met by protesters in support of Palestine on Thursday.
Oren discussed the history and accomplishments of Israel and responded to student concerns about Israeli settlements beyond the nation’s borders. He said their placement was strategic as well as ideological, including a highly debated two-mile strip of road known as E1. Oren said such settlements make up 2 percent of the West Bank.
“It has been the position of every Israeli prime minister that E1 and that area would remain a part of Israel in any territorial compromise and we would find some way of compensation for Palestine,” Oren said.
Students with the Palestine Solidarity Committee and the International Socialist Organization protested during the speech, resulting in an arrest by the UT Police Department.
UTPD Chief Robert Dahlstrom said the arrested protester was most likely charged with disrupting a meeting, which is a class B misdemeanor. The identity of the protester could not be confirmed.
English junior Zach Guerinot, who was protesting with the organizations said they had members with posters and a Palestinian flag at the event and information on Palestine outside. “He represents a state that continually violates human rights and continually stomps on the throats of oppressed people,” Guerinot said. “His presence here is a reflection of normalization of the relation between the U.S. and Israel.”
Oren said the Israeli government sees the Syrian Civil War as an opportunity to deal a blow to Iran.
“With the outbreak of hostilities in Syria, we had hoped that the regime would pass from the earth as soon as possible, but these groups proved to be more resilient than initially predicted,” Oren said.
He said Israel’s greatest accomplishment is its system of democracy, although it’s not perfect.
“We can do lots of things better. Israel is a work in progress,” Oren said. “Our goal is to better democracy, full equality for all of our citizens and peace with our neighbors.”